US Lighthouse Tender WARRINGTON Seeing The Light

Commissioned 1870. Sold 1910 Home Back

1869 was a critical year in Eleventh Lighthouse District. With eleven new light stations either under construction or with open across lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior, the district was faced with the insurmountable problem of encompassing the work with only two vessels at its disposal. The problem was further exacerbated by the fact that one of the two vessels was the aging schooner BELLE, and the other the steamer HAZE, which was shared for half of the year with the Tenth Lighthouse District.

Without a specific appropriation, purchasing a new vessel was out of the question, and thus District Engineer Orlando M. Poe was forced to look for an existing vessel which would suit the purposes of an engineering tender. After seeking bids from a number of sources, the decision was made to purchase the HENRY WARRINGTON for a price of $25,000. The vessel was designed as a great lakes steam barge, and had been built for her prior owners by the J. M Jones shipyard in Detroit in 1868. Her white oak hull stood 260' in overall length, 25' 6" in the beam and displaced 410 tons and drew 12' 6" when fully loaded. Her single screw was driven by a coal-fired marine steam boiler which developing 400 horsepower.

Click to view enlarged imageCommissioned as the United States lighthouse tender WARRINGTON, she began servicing construction projects throughout the Eleventh District late in the 1870 navigation season and was extensively employed in transporting materials, supplies and the construction crew to Scammons Harbor where work was underway on erecting the crib for the new light station on Spectacle Reef in Lake Huron. On one of her many trips through lake Huron, she encountered a major gale on October 31, and was forced to stay close to the west shore in order to seek shelter. While passing Presque Isle, she came across the schooner DARIEN which had gone ashore and was breaking up in the surf. Turning the vessel shoreward, the WARRINGTON'S crew managed to save the entire crew of the schooner. With work on the Spectacle Reef crib progressing, plans were in place to transport huge amounts of stone from the Marblehead quarry on Lake Erie which would be required for construction of the new station's pier and tower. Fearing that the vessels decking was not up to the task, she was taken to the yard at the end of the 1870 navigation season, and her decks beams supported by arches and stanchions in preparation.

Click to view enlarged imageOn the calm evening of July 18, 1871, with the schooner BELLE in tow, WARRINGTON followed the side wheeler tug MAGNET and the screw propeller CHAMPION as they carefully towed the huge timber crib out of Scammons Harbor and across open water to the prepared site in Spectacle Reef, and assisted in transferring the many tons of stone required to sink the crib in place. After a month of transporting materials to and from the reef, WARRINGTON'S boiler was found to be leaking, and she was again returned to dock where she was refitted with a new boiler 8' in diameter and 18' feet in length. While in dock, her boom and handling equipment were also significantly rebuilt.

The vessel continued to support construction at Spectacle Reef for the following two years until work on the new station was completed on June 1, 1874, and served in general engineering duty until she was assigned to assist with construction of the new Stannard Rock light in Lake Superior early in 1876. Plans for the new Stannard Rock light station were very similar to those used at Spectacle Reef, and thus the same equipment would be needed in Lake Superior. Thus, WARRINGTON began her service by transporting all of the equipment and buildings from Scammons Harbor to Huron Bay on the south shore of Superior, which had been selected as the base of operations for this major construction project. Her oak hull was found to be suffering from rot at the end of the 1878 navigation season, and she was docked for most of that winter while her hull was almost completely re-planked. Her upper cabins were also rebuilt, and that following year she was reported to be in "excellent condition." In addition to continuing her service at the Stannard Rock site, 1881 saw the vessel transporting supplies and crews for the construction of new lights at Passage and Sand Islands, and serving as the principal engineering tender on Lake Superior.

Click to view enlarged imageIn 1884, WARRINGTON was used in transporting materials for the construction of new stations at Little Traverse and Sturgeon Bay, and she also transported District Engineer Captain Charles E. L. B. Davis on his inspections of stations throughout the district. The following year, in addition to transporting the fog signal equipment to Passage Island and materials for construction at Sand Island, Big Sable, Sand Beach and for repairs at Spectacle Reef, she transported the Engineer Secretary of the Lighthouse Board and the District Engineer on an inspection tour of the entire District.

With the subdivision of the Eleventh District into two districts in 1891, WARRINGTON began spending half of year in the new Ninth District servicing aids on Lake Michigan, and the remainder of the year in the revised Eleventh District, which no included only lakes Huron and Superior. In these assignments, she was employed in transporting material to Devils Island, Seul Choix, Windmill Point, Old Mackinac Point, and a new series of range lights in the St. Marys River. Worn and in deteriorating condition, she was docked at the Detroit lighthouse depot for most of the 1893 and 1894 navigation seasons.

Needing an additional vessel for work being undertaken in the St. Mary's River, the vessel was temporarily repaired through a re-caulking of her hull, a new stovepipe was installed and the woodwork in the quarters was painted and put in good order. She was loaded with materials for construction of the Hay Lake Channel lights and for repairs at Whitefish Point and again steamed north into Lake Huron. In May and June of 1896, she was back in Lake Michigan where she was employed in rebuilding the Waugoshance crib.

Click to view enlarged imageWith newer and improved tenders now active the services of WARRINGTON were no longer needed in the Ninth and Eleventh Districts, and arrangements were made to transfer her to the Tenth District where an additional engineering tender was needed. On April 24, 1897, she went into dry dock where her entire hull was re-planked. In June, a new boiler was installed, and her machinery extensively repaired. Over the remainder of the year, her upper superstructure and decks were also rebuilt, and she was transferred to the Engineer of the Tenth District on April 25, 1898.

She continued to serve in the Tenth District until 1910, when after 42 years of service she had outgrown her usefulness. She was sold to the Hines Lumber Company of Chicago, where she was put into service carrying lumber around the Great Lakes. On August 21, 1911, she ran aground in a storm new Charlevoix, and after being pounded by the storm-driven waves, was considered a complete lost.

Crew members of this vessel

Click here to see a complete listing of all crew members assigned to the WARRINGTON  compiled by Phyllis L. Tag of Great Lakes Lighthouse Research.


Annual reports of the Lighthouse Board, various, 1891-1914
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Vol. I, Part A
Crew member
listings for this vessel appear courtesy of Great Lakes Lighthouse Research

Terry Pepper. This page last updated 12/02/2007